Thursday, March 28, 2013

Arepa de Huevo

An arepa de huevo is literally an arepa filled with a whole egg, ubiquitous along the Caribbean coast in Colombia for breakfast. They are fairly gut-busting, quite delicious, and a fun challenge to make at home. You can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homemade Passover

I've always had a love/hate relationship to Passover, loving the part with all the family cooking and singing songs late into the night, followed by wanting to kill myself by the 5th day of matzoh hell, not to mention the 8th. My Passover experience has never been very typical-- as a kid it wasn't because my family is vegetarian, and now it isn't because I live in places where ingredients are hard to find so I end up making absolutely everything myself, even the matzoh. Can we call it a throwback seder, solidarity with my Yiddish-speaking, long-suffering foremothers? Although I (or Felipe) normally make the vast majority of what we eat at home, a 100% homemade passover really does push my limits to what I consider reasonable/sane.

But, in case you find yourself in a situation like mine, or if you just want some different ideas for this manic depressive time of year, here's what I'm thinking the menu is going to look like this year (obviously, this would be considered a dairy seder):

First/second/third courses (how do we count these??)

Sesame Matzoh (Julia Child! First they make pumpernickel bread, then the matzoh. Is watching the video considered chametz by proxy?)
Matzoh Ball Soup-- last year I made the matzoh balls with smashed up (homemade) matzoh instead of matzoh meal, and the resultant balls were really nice texturally, I definitely recommend giving it a try at least once.
Gefilte Fish-- I've done it in loaf form (recommended by my grandmother, not such a fan), in gefilte-fish form (with my grandmother, better), going to try boiled mini-sausage form this year a la Mile End cookbook.
Chrain-- from the Mile End cookbook. If I can find horseradish. If not, wasabi it is!
Apple Date Ginger Charoseth-- at my parent's house we normally make two kinds of charoseth: one apple-prune-cinnamon one, which is Ashkenazi, and one pear-date-ginger one, based on my Georgian cousin's recipe, but I'm lazy and prefer to combine what I like most about both of them into one.

Main course

Sweet and Sour Fish-- trying out the recipe from Yotam Ottolengui's amazing Jerusalem cookbook
Sweet Potatoes with Onions and Rosemary-- I don't think I've ever had a passover without this on the table. We don't go for tzimmes in my family (it's not just us, either, Ottolenghi says in his Jerusalem cookbook that tzimmes "in most of its local manifestation, is pretty gross," which made me laugh) but I think this fills a similar place in the meal.
Mixed Green Salad with Radishes and Avocado, Mustard Vinaigrette-- for much-needed freshness and acidity.


Marjolaine-- I've never made this before and it's not traditional for passover, but it's flour-less and looks fantastic, so we'll see how it turns out.
Marzipan-stuffed Dates-- in the past I've also made chocolate ganache-stuffed figs, which are another great option. Marzipan-stuffed dates are certainly more Sephardic in origin-- I first saw them in a Kitty Morse cookbook.
Matzoh Brittle with almonds-- essential.
Citrus Fruit Plate- it's nice to have something fresh and not super sweet to cool off with at the end of a long meal.

I find I have to regulate the chocolate, otherwise I end up with all chocolate desserts, but I almost always make chocolate meringues as well, and this flourless chocolate layer cake is fantastic. Another great option are caramel flans (if it's not a meat seder, obviously).

Other things I like to make when I'm in the states for Passover that I don't make in Brazil for lack of ingredients are wild rice pilafs (with roasted vegetables, dried fruit and parsley) and sauteed kale. Frittatas are another great option for vegetarian seders, as are escondidinhos. And yuca-based cheese breads are a lifesaver come the end of the week, when the sight of another sheet of matzoh makes you want to scream.

Thoughts? (Yes, I know this is insane.)

Friday, March 15, 2013


A couple of months after I first moved to Argentina and finally understood enough not to say when I was waiting for service in restaurants and waiters asked me "ya te atendieron?" (have you been helped yet?), I realized I would need to learn to roll my r's if I was ever going to have any hope at a passable non-English accent. My friend Carolina taught me an exercise that small children are given in Latin American countries to strengthen their r-rolling abilities: Rrr con rrr cigarrrro, rrr con rrr barrrrril, rrrapido rrruedan los carrros, sobre el ferrrrrocarrrril. But it's not easy to make your tongue do something it doesn't know how to do, and I sounded stupid, and at some point someone told me, just try to relax your tongue against the roof of your mouth while you try to make the sound and it'll vibrate on its own. What this meant was that I spent several months practicing, often in public walking home from work, people giving me the sideways eye, until it slowly came around (well, mostly-- I can't roll my r's endlessly like Felipe can, but I'm a master at rapido rued-ing the carros sobre the f-ing ferrocarril.)

It also meant that I was able to go parrillas, the meat-based center of Argentinean gastronomy, and ask to be passed the chimichurri sauce without being given the gringo stink eye. Chimichurri is a parsley-based sauce that is great both on the traditional meat as well as vegetables and whatever else you might have lying around (but not, uh, fruit). It's vinegary and not particularly spicy (this is Argentina we're talking about here, home of the biggest wusses I've ever met in my life as far as spice tolerance goes), and it's an integral part of one of my favorite things to eat in Argentina-- choripan, which is literally chorizo + pan, but between the fatty Argentinean (non-spicy) chorizo and the healthy dose of chimichurri slicked onto the bread, it's about as perfect a food as you could possibly want.

My Argentinean friend Alejandra's father owns a parrilla down in Patagonia and I was thrilled to get a hold of his recipe, which in all honesty is probably better than the chimichurri found at your typical hole-in-the-wall joint. It's a great use of a bunch of parsley and keeps for at least a week in the fridge. It will leave you with lovely breath, but that won't matter because you'll probably be too full to do anything social anyway, leaving you lots of time to practice your r's.

Patagonian Chimichurri Sauce
     adapted from Parrilla La Tranquera, Sarmiento, Chubut

1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped (around 2 cups)
8-10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. sweet Spanish paprika (I used 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika and 1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes, which I liked a lot)
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. salt

Grab a large, clean glass jar with a top (mason jar or whatever), and throw the parsley, garlic, basil and paprika in. Add in the oil, vinegars and lemon juice, making sure the parsley is covered (add more olive oil to cover if necessary). Add in salt, stirring to mix, and taste to adjust the salt and vinegar if necessary. Cover the jar and refrigerate it-- you can use it immediately, but it will improve sitting a day or two before use.

Chimichurri Patagónico
      adaptada de Parrilla La Tranquera, Sarmiento, Chubut
1 atado de perejil, sin los cabos, picado bien finito (como 2 tazas)
8-10 dientes de ajo, picados
2 hojas de albahaca fresca, picadas
1 cucharada de pimiento español (aji, el que es rojo y medio
1/2 taza de aceite de oliva
2 cucharadas de vinagre de manzana
2 cucharadas de vinagre balsamico
2 cucharadas de jugo de limon
1 cucharita de sal

Poner en un frasco de vidrio (ojo, que no sea de plastico) con tapa hermetica como para conserva, el perejil, ajo, albahaca y pimiento todo bien picadito. Agregar aceite, jugo de limon y vinagres hasta que cubra al perejil. Luego la sal. Probar, y corregir al gusto, agregando mas vinagre o sal, si se estima necesario. Tapar el frasco de vidrio y refrigerar. Queda mas rico si se refrigera por un dia o dos antes de usarlo.